Simply Seasonal: 3 Recipes From Kitchen To Table

A home full of guests was how we planned this holiday – friends from Houston would pot sunshine and Texas steaks, stuffing them in bulging blue Samsonite cases, while friends from Nigeria would come armed with Kilishi (Nigerian beef jerky) and peppered plantain chips; we, in the Netherlands would provide the snow, sleighs and bells.

We, the adults would stay up late every single night, kids tucked in bed, talking, chatting and laughing till ribs ached and tummies hurt, and then we would head to bed at 3am, fully aware that 8am wake ups would be part of the ‘rising-with-the-sun’ routine.

Christmas cake

To be honest, things have not gone exactly as planned. Thanks to the mass of white sunshine from the skies  aka snow,  currently blanketing Europe, the ‘American’ friends, who travelled en route London, got stuck there and eventually braved a ferry crossing with all 5 suitcases after 2 days. We ended up with packs of graham crackers and loads of Ziploc bags – everything I had on my list and then they left 2 days before Christmas. And the Nigerians? Well, they arrived here on Boxing day, giving me sufficient time to buy some Mascarpone and make some Tiramisu to rebuild some trust – that’s a story I will share with you soon. Just think of ‘Shortcut Tiramisu’ and loving Tiramisu. Which one do you reckon would taste better? Story for another time….

It has been fun though, I must say – the grown-ups have laughed their way through many a movie and failed act; my girlfriends and I have cooked up a storm of great and easy recipes, while the men have sat down, chimed in with comments on flavours and textures, while doing nothing, absolutely nothing 🙂  and the kids have had fun, packing snow into hard balls in futile attempts to build a snowman.

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The recipes I share today are things we’ve cooked up in the last few days, my friends and I. They are mostly quick, easy to put together with great flavours and textures. I’ll begin with one for breakfast, made with one of my favourite fruits, Le Kumquat, as featured in this rice pudding and that flavoured oil, and now loved by daughter #1, a fan of all things tart. For a while, I’ve been scheming about making a kumquat marmalade. A couple of weeks ago, with nothing to do but laundry and housework, I got busy and rustled up a tiny batch of kumquat and vanilla marmalade. It was delicious but I learnt a few things: if you’d like to use whole vanilla pods in your recipes, best to make some vanilla powder first for blending citrus skin and a whole, soaked vanilla pod leads to chopped flesh and vanilla chunks – tasty perhaps but not pretty. Regardless, this marmalade, lightly flavoured with rum was cleaned out in days. Prompting a swift repeat. This time I was super prepared with vanilla powder in hand, and decided to make 2 versions – vanilla & rum  and ginger & cardamom.

Recipe #1, Breakfast: Kumquat ‘smoothie’ marmalade

I believe some orange citrus must be on show at Christmas, be it clementines,mandarins or oranges. Last year, we indulged in some Clementine curd and red-wine poached kumquats. This year, the kumquats play centre stage in a recipe where I employed the services of my blender for many reasons – it is done in a snap and helps concentrate the flavours by making every part of the fruit contribute, like in my Strawberry Cardamom Smoothie Jam. I particularly adore this Kumquat marmalade for its finely hacked citrus bits.

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Ingredients

250g kumquats
1/2 – 1 cup sugar
2 cups water
Vanilla & Rum: seeds of 1 vanilla pod/1-2 teaspoon of vanilla powder and 1 – 2 teaspoons brown rum
Ginger & Cardamom: 1/2 teaspoon finely minced/grated ginger and the crushed seeds of 4-6 cardamom pods

Tips

In a spice/coffee grinder, blend the cardamom seeds with some sugar, to crush the seeds and maximise the flavour extracted.

To get your ginger fine, pass it through a garlic press.

Watch the kumquats when they cook: they have a tendency to quickly caramelise if on too high a heat – I’ve suffered caramelised whole kumquats in syrup. While the result may be pleasant, you’ll be left with a golden brown marmalade, rather than a sweet bright orange. Be warned.

How to

Wash the kumquats and remove the stalk/stalk bed.

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Slice the kumquats in half length-ways and separate the skin from the central fruit flesh and seeds, don’t throw anything away yet as the membrane and seeds in a small bowl are pectin-rich, perfect for providing a great set.

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If you prefer a thick cut marmalade, you may want to slice the skin into your preferred thickness before the next step. I like a fine-cut marmalade and so soak the fruit skins and chop the soaked fruit in a blender later!

In a large non-reactive bowl, put the kumquat skins and the water. Then put the membrane and seeds in a cheesecloth spice bag or in a makeshift cheesecloth bag – add to the skins in water. Cover and let stand for about 12 hours or overnight.

After the ‘rest’,  gently squeeze the cheesecloth into the bowl with the skins and water, to release the translucent, thick pectin-rich juices. Repeat the squeeze until most of the juices have been extracted, then discard the membrane and seeds.

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Put the kumquat mixture in a blender or food processor and pulse a few times, till the skin is chopped up and you get a cloudy, orange mixture.

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Pour the fruit mixture into a heavy-bottomed, medium sized saucepan and add the sugar, stirring to dissolve it.

If making the vanilla version : add the vanilla seeds/powder to the pot now.

If making the ginger and cardamom version: add the ginger and cardamom now.

Bring to a boil on high heat, 1 – 2 minutes and then turn down heat to a simmer to prevent excessive caramelisation and preserve the colour. I allow it to simmer, checking for ‘readiness’ by visual inspection – skim off any foam, and gently stir occasionally. From the world of jam gelling, it is ready when the temperatures reach about 100 degrees C(or 215-220 degrees F) and a teaspoon of mixture dropped onto a cold plate gels.

Remove the pan from the heat once it has set and let stand for about 5 minutes.

If making the vanilla version : stir in the rum now.

If you want to can, use your tried and trusted canning method. For those that will be consumed ASA, pot and refrigerate. Smear on toast, dollop on yogurt and glaze cakes. I plan on trying at some point crostatas………….we shall see how those pan out. Maybe with the next batch :-). My friend B, like the vanilla & rum version – she said ‘You can taste the kumquats’. Of the gingered version, she said (admittedly a non-ginger& cardamom lover) ‘You don’t get the pure kumquat flavour’. Simply put……she had her favourite, as did I and I loved both!

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Recipe #2, Appetizers: Chilli Bacon-wrapped Plantains, makes about 21 – 24 pieces

I grew up eating plantains as an essential part of my Nigerian diet and I find it fascinating to experiment with them. I’ve tried chocolate-filled gnocchi and Plantano Frito tortillas for nouveau cuisine, and traditional Nigerian steamed pudding. And so when I read about bacon-wrapped plantains at Cynthia’s of Taste of Home, its fate was sealed.

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Now our friends come from a part of Nigeria in the west where they ‘worship’ chilli pepper. They are of the Yoruba tribe and though they don’t literally fall down and bow to the pepper, the love it in all forms and in almost all dishes.

A Yoruba Proverb says, ‘The man that eats no pepper is weak, pepper is the staff of life.’

Because of this, I made a batch of yellow pepper sauce. First up, I love yellow scotch bonnets or Madame Jeanette peppers as the slimmer, longer variety is known. I always have a bag in the deep freezer and I get serious withdrawal symptoms as it slowly empties! I love the fragrance – peppery blossoms smells which on taste have a sweetness to them. Hot..but sweet. The sauce is a snap to make and keeps well in the fridge – it can also be frozen. I painted on some chilii sauce on the bacon strips before I wrapped the plantains in them – a slight deviation from the recipe but delicious nonetheless.

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Ingredients

3 ripe plantains (the plantains should be very ripe but still be able to hold its shape; get those with blackened spots)
1 packet of bacon, with 8 rashers, desalted if you like ( I used back bacon but also plan on trying it with some streaky bacon later)
1 – 2 tablespoons of Chilli sauce (recipe below). You can also use homemade, store-bought, your fave Sriracha…etc

How to
Pre-heat the oven to 190 degrees c (375 degrees F) and line a baking sheet with foil. Grease the baking sheet lightly and set aside.

Peel the plantains and cut them into 1-inch rounds.

Because I love bacon but hate salt, I always de-salt my bacon in hot water before I use it! This strips some of the salt out and a bit of the oils……

Cut the de-salted rashers of bacon in half and brush on some chilli sauce, then wrap each piece of plantain with a piece of bacon. Secure with a toothpick or two.

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Place the plantain pieces on the baking sheet so that the meaty side of the bacon is in contact with the baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes or until the bottom of the plantains are caramelized and the bacon is cooked through.

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Remove from pan and place on wire rack to cool.

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Serve baked plantains warm or at room temperature and bottoms-up to show off the caramelised base. I accompanied mine with some ‘stew’- a cooked mixture of tomato sauce, onion and spices and some more chilli sauce.

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Chilli Sauce

1 white onion

3-4 yellow peppers

1-2 cooking spoons of vegetable oil

Salt, to taste

Maggi sauce, to taste

How to

In a blender, process the onion and peppers with some water till smooth.

In a frying pan on medium heat, put the oil (open up windows, place the extractor on) and let heat up gently.

Then add the onion mixture and let cook gently for a few minute. Add some salt and Maggi sauce, to taste and let simmer gently for 10 – 15 minutes, till the sauce is ‘cooked’ or ‘fried’. Let cool and refrigerate.

The finished recipe reminded us of ‘Bole’, a dish of coal-open fire roasted plantains, which are a popular Nigeria roadside snack. They are often served with a side of peppery sauce or palm oil and smoked fish  or eaten with peanuts! We loved the combination of salty bacon, sweet plantains with a lacing of hot sauce. Yummy, yum, yum. My plantains were not the ripest so this will have to be repeated. For sure.

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Recipe #3, Dessert: Orange & Cardamom Panna Cotta

I’ve always ever made pannacotta with yogurt, a mean lean version – and loved it. This time, B and I decided that we must try the calorie-laden version. Forgive me. This decision was informed by a recent trip to ‘Italy’, while in Barcelona. One evening, we had dinner at a gorgeous, hip Italian restaurant on the La Rambla called ‘Pizza Marzano’. The kids enjoyed crispy bottomed pizzas and my husband and I had lamb and chicken. The accompanying dough balls were a winner, small yeasted rounds with soft centres, perfect for dipping. But it was the creamy, soft pannacotta which the hubby ordered which caused me great envy!!!!!!!! I sneaked some spoonfuls, scooping up some raspberry coulis and vowed this would be made. Soon. Enter, B with a desire to make some dessert pots for our movie night, plus she’d also never seen gelatine leaves and this was a perfect opportunity to kill numerous birds with one stone.

Adapting a recipe from David Lebovitz – we made two versions: a regular vanilla version and an orange & cardamom one, a flavour combination I spied in Baked Creams in Jamie’s Dinners.

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Ingredients

3 cups (750ml) heavy cream
1 cup (250ml) milk
1/2 cup (100g) sugar
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract or 1 teaspoon vanilla powder or 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
8 teaspoons chopped agar agar strands or 2 – 3 teaspoons agar agar powder OR 2 packets powdered gelatin (about 4 1/2 teaspoons) or 25g gelatin leaves/sheets (approximately six sheets)
6 tablespoons (90ml) cold water
For the Orange & Cardamom : 1 teaspoon micro-planed orange zest and crushed seeds of 4 – 6 cardamoms or 1/4 teaspoon of ground cardamom
Serve with some Raspberry Coulis or your favourite sauce

How to

Heat the heavy cream, milk and sugar in a saucepan or microwave. Once the sugar is dissolved, remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract or vanilla sugar. Vanilla powder would make a great difference here as you wouldn’t have to ‘wait’ if using a vanilla bean, where you’d have to scrape the seeds from the bean into the cream and add the bean pod, cover and let infuse for 30 minutes before use – remember to remove the bean then rewarm the mixture before continuing.

Lightly oil eight custard cups with a neutral-tasting oil.

If using:

1. Agar-agarchop the agar agar strands in small pieces and soak the pieces in warm water for about 10 minutes. Cook the agar-agar strands in water till they completely dissolve. Using a whisk, stir the hot agar agar solution into the warm Panna Cotta mixture.

2. Gelatin powder, sprinkle the gelatin over the 6 tablespoons of cold water in a medium-sized bowl and let stand 5 to 10 minutes. Pour the very warm Panna Cotta mixture over the gelatin and stir until the gelatin powder mixture is completely dissolved.

3. Gelatin sheets/leaves: Soften  in a litre of cold water for 5 to 10 minutes. Wring the sheets out and stir them into the warm Panna Cotta mixture, until dissolved.

To avoid any lumps, pass the mixture through a sieve, discarding any lumpy bits.

Place the mix into 4 of the prepared cups and put on a tray (easier to stay in the refrigerator).

To the remaining mix, add the orange zest and ground cardamom and stir well  to combine. Ladle into the remaining cups/ramekins/moulds.

Chill them until firm in the refrigerator, which will take at least two hours. I prefer them overnight but we made them in the evening and they were soft set and ready for our ‘Date Night’ viewing.

David suggests that ‘If you’re pressed for time, pour the Panna Cotta mixture into wine goblets so you can serve them in the glasses, without unmolding’.

Run a sharp knife around the edge of each Panna Cotta, or dip in a bowl of hot water for a second or two and unmold each onto a serving plate, and garnish as desired, with fruit sauces, coulis or compotes.

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We ate ours out of the ramekins and loved them. The men were fine…..my husband had to crumble some cookies over his, being the crunch lover he is. He went on to say that he preferred the lower-fat variety – the thought of all that cream almost stopped our hearts but now I know what real Italian Panna Cottas taste like, and I know the difference between these and my yogurt version. These are creamier, softer and remind me of vanilla custard – the mouthfeel is silky glossy – thanks to the gelatine, which B was shocked came from a funny source, aka Pork. She cringed a bit about eating ‘bacon for dessert’, as she put it! I’ve read of people making Panna Cottas with coconut milk too, and using agar-agar instead of gelatine to create the set. I intend to try it again, this time with a mix of yogurt, cream and milk. We shall see.

One funny thing, I discovered that one of the Panna Cottas separated out into two layers – a creamy top and a centimetre thick, jelly like off-white base????????? Hmmm. It still tasted delicious and I wouldn’t have noticed it had I eaten it under the cover of night as an after-dinner dessert instead of for breakfast!IMG_8689

The orange-cardamom Panna Cottas were by far my favourite- the cream was perfumed with the blossoms of sweet citrus, so soft, so sweet and oh so delicious. And the cardamom brought a fresh scentedness to it, forget that the seeds sunk to the bottom. Next time I make it, I’ll make sure I grind the cardamom seeds to fine dust.and maybe strain the cream through a fine sieve.

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What are your favourite quick and easy to-go recipes for the holidays?

Whatever you make, eat or drink, have a very blessed holiday season – may you feel the joy of the season and may the rebirth and renewal inspire you to great heights.[wpurp-searchable-recipe]Simply Seasonal: 3 Recipes From Kitchen To Table – – – [/wpurp-searchable-recipe]

30 Comments

  1. I made panna cotta today for the first time. Will know if it was well done in a few hours. I was searching for a recipe that used just yogurt and it was very hard to find, finally went with evaporated milk and yogurt.

  2. I would like to know where I may purchase the bread butter knive and the selling price. I live in Ontario, Canada

  3. I heard about the snow up there- a friends just came back yesterdya and said they were stuck indside most of the time. At least you had a white Christmas I said LOL

    Lovin the marmalades and the panna cotta looks divine. Thanks for the tips on how to avoid any lumps

  4. Thanks for giving information on these seasonal dishes. It was informative to find out how to set up the slices of bacon on the plantain before baking.

  5. Oz, Happy new Year to you and your family. What an adventure the snow has caused for many people with great holiday plans. Still, it seems to have worked out, and you had a wonderful time and great food.

    Looking forward to enjoying your blog in 2011!!

    Stay warm.
    Velva

  6. Somehow, I never would have thought of combining plantains with bacon. I would definitely have to give this a try considering there are so many varieties of bananas/plantains all year round over here.

    Glad you had a great time with your friends. I love it when old friends from back home come over to visit.

  7. Oooo, even though I have a sweet tooth, it’s those plantains that have caught my eye! What a great trio of dishes, and it sound like everything turned out well with the friends in the end.

    We had a simple vanilla panna cotta for our Christmas dessert and it was an uber rich version which ues heavy cream AND pouring cream AND white chocolate. Lucky we only made small portions to be shared amongst many mouths 🙂

    Have a great start to the New Year Oz!

  8. Just beautiful. Those bacon wrapped plantains sound and look amazing. I wish I had one right now (but then again, I wouldn’t be able to stop once I got started!) I’m glad that you and your friends were able to make the best of a cold situation. Thank you for sharing with me, my friend. I wish you and your family a happy and blessed new year!

  9. Oh Oz, how I missed your blog..I have been MIA for the holiday season, happy holidays first off..I am glad your frineds arrived and you had a wonderful time, I am totally excited about the bacon wrapped plantains, perfect little bite..

    sweetlife

  10. This all sounds delicious. Although I encounter kumquat specialties every sumer in Corfu and purchase many a souvenir containing this citrus fruit for family and friends I’ve never been too keen of this fruit. But I think that us because I’ve only ever eaten whole in traditional Greek spoon sweets or candied. I do believe I would much more enjoy the marmalade. As for the plantains, they sound amazing! And the pannacotta sounds delicious. All the best for a happy and healthy new year! And lets hope Mother Nature can be a bit kinder. .. but we should begin being a bit minder to her as well I guess;)

  11. What they say about the best laid plans and how sometimes work out better because they did not go as planned. I love all your recipes, but am fixated on your bacon wrapped plantains – kicking myself for not thinking of them first. Have a wonderful new years!!

  12. OMG!!!!
    Again, OZ – three posts in one! The chili bacon wrapped plantains look absolutely DEADLY. Going on my TO MAKE list – FOR SURE. Your photography, thought, and detail is such a poetic and artistic feast to the eye.
    Are you going to recap your trip for us… give us a window into your “home coming”? I am dying to be there with you.
    HAPPY NEW YEAR to you. I cannot wait to hear and see how you and your family “bring it in”!
    🙂
    Valerie

  13. I can see your Christmas this year has been yummy! Can imagine your home must be full of interesting aromas. 🙂
    Season’s greetings and best wishes for a happy new year.

  14. Wonderful to know you have such a great time there. While you have less sleep to enjoy the season, I think I slept too much 😛 Just so tired after my long trip back to Malaysia and the jet lag to cope. I love kumquats. Your kumquat marmalade just looks sooooo gooood. I will eat it with everything! 🙂 Thanks very much for sharing. Wishing you a great 2011!

  15. My dear…I am honored to be mentioned on your blog. How very kind of you.

    I must try your version on the plantains.

    May your and your family receive many blessings and a very Happy and Prosperous New Year.

  16. The kumquat jam looks divine. Plus, it’s perfect for can-o-phobes like me who still fear that whole water processing step. I love how quick this one is to make. I’m going to have to pick up some kumquats to try making it. Happy holidays! 😉

  17. Oz…. what an adventure your friends had….. but what an awesome cook-a-thon you’ve shown us. I’m seriously interested in trying the chilli bacon wrapped plantains… wow but they look good.
    Good girl for eating the pana cota leftovers…for breakfast… totally normal in my world 🙂

  18. Those marmalades look amazing. I love the idea of the rum and vanilla additions! My all time favourite marmalade that I have made is a cumquat and lime- not for the faint hearted 🙂

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